On Saturday 22 July, people from the Whiteshill and Ruscombe community came together to take part in a fundraising day at St Paul’s Church to help keep its doors open.
St Paul’s is a Grade II listed building, built in 1839-40 to a design by Thomas Foster of Bristol. It needs a new heating system and the guttering on the south-side to be replaced, together costing up to £56,000.
The event, held at the church, aimed to raise awareness of what the money is needed for while giving people an opportunity to show their appreciation for the building.
Organiser Maggie Booth said, “Our church is going through challenging times recently. Just as the new guttering went up on the north side and the metal fencing was removed, the recent storm caused water damage inside the building. It needs to raise thousands for necessary repairs. I thought we could show our appreciation for this lovely building by literally giving it a big hug.”
At 3pm, the church bell rang and everyone was invited by the Revd Simon Howell to go outside and link hands to make a big circle around the church.
“Getting enough people to circle the church was a tall order, so it was lovely to see so many people coming out and together, holding hands around the church,” said Maggie. “We knew this was going to be a challenge, but we achieved it. It was a wonderful, magical and a very emotional moment.
“St Paul’s Church desperately needs support and hopefully this event and others will encourage people to come along to their parish church and enjoy this meeting place, which is here for the whole community – we don’t want to lose it.”
The Revd Simon Howell, Pioneer Minister for Stroud parish churches, said, “St Paul’s is a place at the heart of the village, a place of historical permanence in a scarily changing world.
“It’s a place of energising community life, now and hopefully in the future. It is a place of spiritual strength and has always been a place to get spiritual strength. This particular day just draws back the curtain to show the potential of this building being the centre of community in these lovely villages. Embracing is an act of compassion toward the church in such difficult times.”
The event included face painting, children’s craft, a family quiz and cyanotype printing of plants from the churchyard. Annie Blick, a local photographer, exhibited her pictures of St Paul’s including some taken by drone.
Jonathan Bayly, a member of St Paul’s, said, “Maggie mobilised a small army of helpers to put the event on which, despite the rain, drew a very large number of people. We hope this will encourage people who live in the villages, whether regular worshippers or not, to invest time and enthusiasm in the future of the building and thereby secure a viable church community.”